The holiday season is fast approaching and after being forced to shutter their cheer in 2020, holiday events are prepping their triumphant return with bells on.
Here are some key Cincinnati holiday events returning this year:
Events at Fountain Square are back with a cheerful vengeance after taking a hiatus in 2020. Full holiday programming kicks off Nov. 26, at 6 p.m. with live music and an appearance by Santa Claus. Downtown Dazzle will run Saturdays from Nov. 27 to Dec. 18 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., where people can watch Santa rappel down a Cincinnati high-rise and enjoy a fireworks display. While on the square, visitors can enjoy the ice rink, which has been open since Nov. 1 and several other attractions.
WinterFest returns: The park began transforming into a winter wonderland once more in 2017, but was forced to sit out 2020 like most others. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, it will offer ice skating, holiday-themed events, and 20 rides, including Mystic Timbers and Flight of Fear (the weather is too cold for most steel coasters). The Eiffel Tower will be turned into a giant holiday tree and a new Winter Wonderland parade will march through the park.
The Cincinnati Zoo's Festival of Lights, a Cincinnati tradition for many families, kicks off on Nov. 19 and continues on through Jan. 9. Activities begin at 4 p.m. each night, though the zoo's hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The North Polar Express begins giving rides at 2:30 p.m.
Initially set to return in 2020, the iconic Cincinnati elves will toil in a window-front once more at Findlay Market beginning the day after Thanksgiving. They'll be on display in the old Leader Furniture building at 130 W. Elder St. Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The elves will be animated on the weekends.
Findlay Market is also hosting a music series, pop-up lounge and other events in the Leader Furniture building throughout the holiday season, where visitors can enjoy the elves alongside other special events.
Featuring more than 100 decorated carriages pulled by everything from mini horses to Clydesdales. The festival will also have live entertainment, shopping and food and craft booths. It kicks off on Dec. 4.
Visitors can enjoy a walk-through display of around 1 million LED lights at the ranch in Morrow from Nov. 19 to Dec. 23. The ranch will also offer holiday shops, pictures with Santa, themed train rides and food and drink.
Open from Nov. 26 to Dec. 18, the Yuletide Village is located on the grounds of the Ohio Renaissance Festival in Waynesville. It features a 16th century-styled holiday celebration with era-inspired light shows, music, live entertainment and more.
Hosted by the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, Light Up College Hill will happen on Dec. 7 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. along Hamilton Avenue. The event will include live reindeer feeding, penguins from the Cincinnati Zoo, train rides for kids, Santa, a letter-writing station and mailbox, caroling and concessions. It will wrap up with the lighting of the 20-foot tree in Patrick Wolterman Memorial Park at 8 p.m.
Driving through Sharon Woods to see holiday lights has been a holiday tradition for more than 28 years, and this year will be no different. Displays this year feature everything from Santa Claus and his elves to every animal on the ark. The Hamilton County park will transform into a winter wonderland with thousands of sparkling lights from Dec. 1 to Dec. 29. Carloads cost $7 and busloads are $55.
Holiday Junction is already open and will run through Jan. 2. The iconic Duke Energy Holiday Trains are celebrating their 75th season, bringing nostalgic cheer to Cincinnatians since they first debuted downtown in 1946. While Holiday Junction's riding train won't be in operation this year, many other events like LEGO sculptures, scavenger hunts and visits with Santa will keep the holiday cheer strong.
Timed entry is required, so it is recommended that visitors buy Holiday Junction tickets in advance. They're $10 for everyone over the age of 3; anyone younger than 3 can get in for free.
Experience the wonder that is the Christmas Nights of Lights' 2 1/2-mile drive-through light show. It is synchronized to both traditional and rocking holiday music played through your car radio. Tickets are $7 per person, or it's $30 per carload, with other pricing options for large groups. The show begins lightly at dusk and runs until 10 p.m. from now until Jan. 2.
Boasting an expanded route, new lights and new music, Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park will hold Journey Borealis from Nov. 19 to Jan. 2. Visitors can embark on the journey through glimmering trees and arches before winding through Jerusalem's Hanukkah celebration before arriving at Swan Lake. Next is Germany's Candy Cane Forest, with more than 50 yarn-wrapped trees, before creeping into the Grinch's Greenland. Also included is Bethlehem's birth of Jesus and a visit to the North Pole and more.
Residents of Hamilton can get in for free on Tuesdays with a current ID and utility bill. Tickets are $20 for Mondays through Thursdays and $25 from Friday through Sundays. Member tickets are $15.